Common Weakness Enumeration

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CWE-396: Declaration of Catch for Generic Exception

Weakness ID: 396
Abstraction: Base
Structure: Simple
Status: Draft
Presentation Filter:
+ Description
Catching overly broad exceptions promotes complex error handling code that is more likely to contain security vulnerabilities.
+ Extended Description
Multiple catch blocks can get ugly and repetitive, but "condensing" catch blocks by catching a high-level class like Exception can obscure exceptions that deserve special treatment or that should not be caught at this point in the program. Catching an overly broad exception essentially defeats the purpose of Java's typed exceptions, and can become particularly dangerous if the program grows and begins to throw new types of exceptions. The new exception types will not receive any attention.
+ Relationships

The table(s) below shows the weaknesses and high level categories that are related to this weakness. These relationships are defined as ChildOf, ParentOf, MemberOf and give insight to similar items that may exist at higher and lower levels of abstraction. In addition, relationships such as PeerOf and CanAlsoBe are defined to show similar weaknesses that the user may want to explore.

+ Relevant to the view "Research Concepts" (CWE-1000)
+ Relevant to the view "Development Concepts" (CWE-699)
MemberOfCategoryCategory389Error Conditions, Return Values, Status Codes
+ Modes Of Introduction

The different Modes of Introduction provide information about how and when this weakness may be introduced. The Phase identifies a point in the software life cycle at which introduction may occur, while the Note provides a typical scenario related to introduction during the given phase.

Architecture and Design
+ Applicable Platforms
The listings below show possible areas for which the given weakness could appear. These may be for specific named Languages, Operating Systems, Architectures, Paradigms, Technologies, or a class of such platforms. The platform is listed along with how frequently the given weakness appears for that instance.


C++ (Undetermined Prevalence)

Java (Undetermined Prevalence)

C# (Undetermined Prevalence)

+ Common Consequences

The table below specifies different individual consequences associated with the weakness. The Scope identifies the application security area that is violated, while the Impact describes the negative technical impact that arises if an adversary succeeds in exploiting this weakness. The Likelihood provides information about how likely the specific consequence is expected to be seen relative to the other consequences in the list. For example, there may be high likelihood that a weakness will be exploited to achieve a certain impact, but a low likelihood that it will be exploited to achieve a different impact.


Technical Impact: Hide Activities; Alter Execution Logic

+ Demonstrative Examples

Example 1

The following code excerpt handles three types of exceptions in an identical fashion.

(good code)
Example Language: Java 
try {

catch (IOException e) {
logger.error("doExchange failed", e);

catch (InvocationTargetException e) {

logger.error("doExchange failed", e);

catch (SQLException e) {

logger.error("doExchange failed", e);


At first blush, it may seem preferable to deal with these exceptions in a single catch block, as follows:

(bad code)
try {

catch (Exception e) {
logger.error("doExchange failed", e);


However, if doExchange() is modified to throw a new type of exception that should be handled in some different kind of way, the broad catch block will prevent the compiler from pointing out the situation. Further, the new catch block will now also handle exceptions derived from RuntimeException such as ClassCastException, and NullPointerException, which is not the programmer's intent.

+ Memberships
This MemberOf Relationships table shows additional CWE Categories and Views that reference this weakness as a member. This information is often useful in understanding where a weakness fits within the context of external information sources.
MemberOfCategoryCategory3887PK - Errors
MemberOfCategoryCategory960SFP Secondary Cluster: Ambiguous Exception Type
+ Taxonomy Mappings
Mapped Taxonomy NameNode IDFitMapped Node Name
7 Pernicious KingdomsOverly-Broad Catch Block
Software Fault PatternsSFP5Ambiguous Exception Type
+ References
[REF-44] Michael Howard, David LeBlanc and John Viega. "24 Deadly Sins of Software Security". "Sin 9: Catching Exceptions." Page 157. McGraw-Hill. 2010.
+ Content History
Submission DateSubmitterOrganization
7 Pernicious Kingdoms
Modification DateModifierOrganization
2008-07-01Eric DalciCigital
updated Time_of_Introduction
2008-09-08CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Applicable_Platforms, Relationships, Other_Notes, Taxonomy_Mappings
2008-09-24CWE Content TeamMITRE
Removed C from Applicable_Platforms
2008-10-14CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Applicable_Platforms
2009-03-10CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships
2009-05-27CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Demonstrative_Examples
2009-10-29CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Description, Other_Notes
2011-06-01CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Common_Consequences
2012-05-11CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated References, Relationships
2014-07-30CWE Content TeamMITRE
updated Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
Previous Entry Names
Change DatePrevious Entry Name
2008-04-11Overly-Broad Catch Block

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Page Last Updated: January 18, 2018